SVG’s full-court press convinced Meeks of a future with the Pistons
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Jodie Meeks was home in Atlanta as midnight approached on the last day of June, wondering what might happen when free agency opened in a few minutes and where he might be spending the next phase of his blossoming career.
It didn’t take him long to find out. Stan Van Gundy’s initial appeal was persuasive enough that Meeks hopped the first flight to Orlando in the morning – where Van Gundy was preparing for Summer League – and grabbed lunch with him and Pistons general manager Jeff Bower. By the time it ended, he’d heard enough to make a decision.
“They laid a lot on my plate as to how they saw me fitting into their system,” Meeks said Tuesday after a brisk workout at the team’s practice facility. “I felt like it was a good fit for me. He said he had watched a lot of film of me from my whole career, but especially last year. I got a chance to expand my game and play some point guard, handle the ball, obviously shoot – that’s what I do – but I got a chance to slow a little bit of everything in my game.”
Meeks’ agent got early indications of strong interest from several teams, he said, but Meeks went into free agency looking to sign quickly if he felt there was a compelling situation awaiting him. When he considered Van Gundy’s success surrounding Dwight Howard with shooters in Orlando, he felt the Pistons represented exactly that.
“There were a lot of teams interested, but I wanted to go to the first available if it was the right situation and I felt like this was. We’ll have an opportunity to make the playoffs in the East. It will be competitive, but it will be fun. I think we have a good, smart and exciting team. We’ve got some young guys, so it’ll be interesting to see where we end up but I think we’ll be in the mix.
“His offense is key for me because it spaces the floor, but not only that, it’ll help out the big men. We have a lot of shooters on this team, so hopefully it’ll trickle down to everybody else.”
It wasn’t just Meeks’ breakout 2013-14 season with the Lakers, when he averaged career bests in scoring (15.7) and minutes (33), that put him at the top of Van Gundy’s shopping list. It was what Van Gundy remembered about him early in his career playing under Doug Collins in Philadelphia within a system similar to what the Pistons will utilize.
“I loved coach Collins’ system,” Meeks said. “It was equal opportunity, which is good for a team that’s trying to win together and this team will have to do that – score and win by committee. We’re capable of doing that. We’ll just have to trust one another, but coach Van Gundy is a very good coach and he’ll instill that from day one.”
It wasn’t just the force of Van Gundy’s interest in him that sold Meeks on the Pistons. It was also the presence of their frontcourt, where Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith ensure that perimeter shooters will get the space they need to launch shots. Drummond, in particular, is proving a magnet for free agent and veteran shooters.
“He’s a very exciting player,” Meeks said. “He’s still very young, but he’s done very well. In his second year, he got a lot better. I’m looking forward to being on his team. He’ll help me out by giving me a lot of space to shoot the basketball and vice versa. I’m sure he can help me out a lot.”
Meeks, Smith and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope give the Pistons three players from football-mad Georgia. Meeks knows he’ll be going head to head with Caldwell-Pope in training camp as Van Gundy determines positional battles at all three perimeter spots.
“I don’t know him personally yet, but I’ve heard he’s a great guy, great person, great teammate,” Meeks said. “Hopefully, we can have a trickle effect. He’ll knock down some shots, I’ll knock down some shots, Cartier (Martin) will. So at the two guard position, we have a lot of depth and good shooting.”